May 20, 2016
Red Dragons ride Lamando
Tyler Clock/contributing photographer
SUNY Cortland senior pitcher Seth Lamando works on his four-hit, 14-strikeout victory over Frosburg State Thursday at Auburn’s Falcon Park. The Red Dragons were 6-0 winners.
AUBURN — Just imagine if Seth Lamando had his really good stuff going.
By most post-game accounts, the senior ace of the SUNY Cortland pitching staff was not at his sharpest on the second day of play at the NCAA Division III New York State Regional baseball playoffs.
Of course Frostburg State batters could argue that point after striking out 14 times and getting only four hits against the unbeaten — and on this sunny Thursday afternoon somewhat untouchable — Lamando after the Red Dragons posted a 6-0 shutout victory to move along in the winner’s bracket of this double-elimination tournament.
Cortland catcher Justin Teague had the best seat in the Falcon Park house to witness this latest stellar Lamando performance, that has the sturdy right-hander now 9-0 on the season with a staggering 0.72 earned run average.
“He got into some jams, but we expect nothing less from him. He gets outs. He’s just an overpowering guy,” said sophomore Teague of Lamando. “He didn’t necessarily have his best stuff locating the ball today, but we know he’s going to get the job done. He’s that good.”
Though Lamando had those season-best 14 strikeouts, he also walked a season-high three hitters pitching one batter into the ninth inning and carrying top-seeded Cortland (39-5) into the winner’s bracket final at 11 a.m. this morning against New Jersey’s second-seeded Ramapo (35-10-1). The winner of today’s game moves into Saturday’s championship round a step closer to earning a berth in the Division III World Series that begins next week.
“You know what, early in the game I didn’t really have my best stuff. My fastball was a little wild,” confessed Lamando after blanking the Bobcats out of Maryland.
“But I just worked through it and tried to hit my spots the best I could,” he added. “Most importantly, I had my team behind my back. We were a little dry there for a couple of innings, but towards the end of the game we turned on the bats and they gave me some run support which really helped, really gave me some confidence out there.”
THIS WAS A 1-0 pitching duel between Lamando and Frostburg State lefty Anderson Burgess going into the bottom of the sixth inning. That’s when the Red Dragons came up with five decisive runs to secure their 18th consecutive victory.
“The team responded with that one big inning, which was really, really, really special. We had some great at bats,” said Cortland head coach Joe Brown of his defending national champions.
Cortland had left the bases loaded after Burgess issued three consecutive two-out walks in the bottom of the second, but finally scored a run in the third. Shortstop Paul Dondero beat out a bunt for the first of 10 Red Dragon hits before racing home when third baseman Steve Figueroa ripped a triple into the right-center gap.
That was the lone run until Cortland made it 2-0 with some textbook stuff to get the sixth inning started. A one-out single up the middle by Figueroa, a Fabio Ricci sacrifice bunt and an Austin Clock RBI single to center produced that run.
It’s what the Red Dragons did the rest of the inning that was most impressive.
After the second out arrived via a strikeout, Teague singled home a run on a 2-2 pitch, Connor Griffin battled back from an 0-2 hole and stroked a two-run single into center and Nick Hart followed with an RBI single up the middle. Those back-to-back-to-back clutch two-out hits built a comfy 6-0 cushion for Lamando to protect.
“We knew he was going to crack at some point and we had our best at bats of the game in that inning,” said Teague of the Red Dragons’ sixth inning success that knocked Burgess (3-4) from the game. “There were a lot of two-strike hits, two-out hits, something we’ve done all year.”
WITH THE SIX-RUN lead, Lamando struck out five of the next eight batters he faced before being lifted after catching Frostburg State pinch-hitter Teron Tyre looking at a third strike for his final K of the day. Senior sidewinder Adam Brant came on to get the final two outs.
Frostburg State’s four hits came in four different innings. Cody Harman was 2-for-4 and Brad Garrant opened the second with a double off the wall in left, only to be left stranded at second base.
“My breaking ball I was going with for a lot for strikeouts,” said Lamando, who is now 15-0 over two seasons as a Cortland pitcher since transferring from Division I Coastal Carolina. “I was not as consistent with the fastball as I normally am, but like coach always says you’ve got to work through it and find what works, and my breaking ball was stepping up today.”
“It’s always fun to catch a great pitcher like him,” said Teague. “It’s been like that all year. He’s our horse. He’s the guy we’re going to go to. We ride off him. There’s no surprise he had a game like that. He’s done it all year.”
So now Cortland is two wins away from returning to the World Series, and will be tested by a Ramapo squad that is also 2-0 in this tournament after beating Susquehanna 9-2 in the last of three games played Thursday.
“Get excited now, because they are no bad teams left. You have to go out and compete,” said Coach Brown. “We hope we can get another good pitching performance. I like the way we’re hitting the ball, and we’re hitting off good pitchers.”
Figueroa went 2-for-3 to lead the offense against Frostburg State, and is 5-for-8 with four RBIs in Cortland’s two victories. Leadoff man Hart finished 2-for-4 against the Bobcats (30-14).
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